James Ferraro's album titles just keep getting heavier and heavier. First, back at the turn of this decade, there was Last American Hero; then there was Hell, NYC, 3AM, his final opus for no-longer-in-operation label Hippos In Tanks. Now, the Bronx-born musician, conceptual artist, and incorrigible cosmic joker is back with a new long-player, and it takes its name from the notoriously poverty-stricken, crime-ridden Downtown Los Angeles neighborhood Skid Row.
Recorded in his current home of LA and due out on November 13, Skid Row is Ferraro's debut album for North Carolina's Break World Records. According to a press release, it's also a conceptual follow-up to Hell, NYC, 3AM's brutalist exploration of American urban decay. "Skid Row started as a collection of poems," Ferraro explains. "It came first as words, then grew into becoming the lyrics of Skid Row. I was writing about the state of the world around me, living on what feels like the brink of societal collapse while also seeing high excess everywhere. All the sounds of the streets crept in—the blood and tears on the street, the echoing sirens in the early morning fog, soaked into the poetry—and it became evident that LA is a hyper-America. A place where violence (media and real life), excess and poverty, police exceptionalism & brutality, racism interact daily."
Since his 2011 album Far Side Virtual, Ferraro's music has been drifting further away from the overdriven, 80s rock satire that put him on the map and deeper into the pristine digital corridors of hip-hop and pop—it's also become more plainly, outspokenly political, and Skid Row is no exception.
"Racism is a war on reason, so in my state of animosity I wrote Skid Row ," Ferraro explains. "I'm a disciple of the streets—my spoken word and music on Skid Row mirror these conflicts that spill out over the western landscape like a painting of America frozen in a state of hyperreal war." Listen to the vocoded, synth-laden title track below, and read the poem he provided by way of an artist statement.
Million dollar smiles, lattes & police brutality.
Excess and fiscal ambiguity.
Media violence & Lamborghini dreams, all under one surveillance video texture.
The desert landscape, like tupperware housing digital smog.
K9's and glistening acid rain,
wash away the sentient blood that stains the palm tree city.
An Escalade® burns on the freeway.
The drone of helicopters hum above head, in a desert backdrop commuters in traffic requite a speed of 20 mph pass the gleaming semiotic debris.
the sushi elite & the poor all anonymous in an unforgiving freeway fatality,
an undiscerning system.
Man on the highway, through a walkie talkie speaker, barefoot on the slick asphalt.
As the sunsets, the sky burns a fusion of metal and silhouetted palms.
and a hyper real civilization is rendered by it's idealism, at war with the gravity of reality..
Rendered by it's traffic culture, it's culture of police brutality and gang violence, media saturation and racism, it's glamorization and solipsism, rendered by the tabloid of it self.